After clinching a playoff spot, Atlanta United was only playing for home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Atlanta started their pursuit for higher seeding against the Philadelphia Union — an old playoff rival. Atlanta would fall to Philadelphia but would have a chance to redeem themselves in their next game against the Columbus Crew. Atlanta would earn a draw to finish out the regular season in Mercedes Benz Stadium.
The Five Stripes took on the Union in Philadelphia on Oct. 4. Atlanta United put out their strongest line up with every player retaining their place as the team looked to capitalize on the momentum from their 4-1 victory over Montreal a week and a half prior. The 17s did not start off the game well, conceding three goals in the first half and heading into the break down 3-0. Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda made some tactical changes for the second half, and the changes paid dividends almost immediately. Atlanta earned a penalty thanks to a handball midfielder Thiago Almada converted in the 56th minute to make the score 3-1. Atlanta United created other dangerous opportunities with attacker Edwin Mosquera eventually scoring in the 77th minute to make the score 3-2 Philadelphia. Despite threatening late, Atlanta United was not able to complete the comeback and would lose to the Philadelphia Union 3-2.
The loss against Philadelphia certainly lowered the chances of securing a home field advantage in the playoffs, but Atlanta still had a lot to play for in the game against the Columbus Crew. Coach Pineda started the exact same line up as the previous games with the team having proven to play well together. The first half was extremely back-and-forth with both Columbus and Atlanta having chances to take the lead. The game would stay level heading into halftime with a 0-0 score. The second half was just as entertaining as the first; Columbus broke the tie with a goal in the 65th minute to make the score 1-0. Atlanta United turned on the pressure to try and equalize which eventually led to a free kick from just outside the box in the last few minutes of stoppage time. Almada would cross in a ball that found defender Miles Robinson who headed the ball into the Columbus net to make the score a 1-1 draw with only seconds to go.
With Atlanta only securing one point from a possible six, the 17s can no longer secure home field advantage for the first round. With one more game, Atlanta United’s players still have a lot to play for. Some of the players have a chance to lead the MLS in certain categories. Giorgos Giakoumakis has the opportunity to be the MLS top scorer, sitting four goals behind the current leader. Almada is still in prime position to lead the MLS in assists with him having two more assists than the next most player on the list.
Defender Caleb Wiley has performed well for the whole season. The Atlanta native has been recognized as one of the MLS 22 under 22, a ranking of the best 22 players under the age of 22 in the MLS. Wiley has been a mainstay in the Atlanta United team, playing anywhere on the left hand side. At just 18 years old, Wiley has a bright future ahead, and his play will only improve.
Atlanta United’s final game of the regular season is against FC Cincinnati on Oct. 21, also known as the MLS’ Decision Day.There has been some talk of the players being rested in order to be fresh for the playoffs, but Atlanta United hopes to be as entertaining as ever in their next game at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.